“Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.”Luke 2:7
Silence is probably the last thing you think of when it comes to Christmas. In my family, it is always a whirlwind of a day—waking up early in the morning, opening presents, eating cinnamon rolls, traveling to gather with family, and sitting down to share a meal with music in the background just barely distinguishable over the parade of voices carrying on around us. The day is anything but silent. This annual, cacophonous phenomenon has often called me back to the hymn “Silent Night.” The opening stanza reads:
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
What was it like at Jesus’ birth? If we follow the hymn, it seems peaceful and serene, but the biblical narrative does not lend us such a description. Mary and Joseph had been traveling for days to Bethlehem only to find there was no proper place for them to stay, let alone a place to deliver a baby. They found shelter in a stable, cave, or guestroom. The narrative isn’t clear on whether or not they were there with permission. We do know, it wasn’t ideal, and we know livestock were present. What is certain, however, would have been the sounds around them.
Multiple families were in the surrounding homes for the census called by Caesar Augustus. Animals, unsure of their new roommates, softly called to one another in the night. Mary, after carrying her firstborn baby for nine months, cried out as He entered the world. Not exactly an occasion marked by silence.
But perhaps the silence we sing about isn’t externally recognized at all. Maybe it comes from within. On that night two thousand years ago, the world changed. Jesus—in whose image we were made—stepped into humanity as one of us. The souls of every person on earth, conflicted and torn by the tyranny of the sin within them, caught the first glimpse of respite. For a moment, all was calm. For a moment, all was bright. Heavenly peace had descended and taken residence among men. And much like a soft breeze over freshly laid snow was the silent breath of fresh air for each and every soul.
The birth of Jesus was not a silent event, but it brought with it the profound potential for renewal that would evoke stillness and silence in every man. Perhaps this year, we all ought to rest, take a breath, and for a moment recognize the stillness of spirit within us— the peace which transcends all understanding that can only be a result from the life, death, and resurrection of that baby boy in Bethlehem.